From left are Congresswoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove, BEC Founder Kaci Patterson, Mayor Karen Bass, and BEC Managing Director Felicia Jones. (Lila Brown/L.A. Sentinel)

The Black Equity Collective (BEC) hosted its second Fireside Chat, “Collective Conversations,” featuring Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, at the Blackbird House in Culver City on April 8.

Kaci Patterson, BEC’s founder and chief architect, led a discussion reflecting on Mayor Bass’s career as a community organizer during her role as executive director of the Community Coalition and the legacy she has inspired serving as a template for non-profit leaders. Guests were also able to learn from an elevated conversation about possibilities within the greater community serving the region and state by starting at a local level.

After hosting its first Fireside Chat with the rapper Common, BEC’s signature event examined Mayor Bass’s approach to partnering with nonprofit organizations across the city to move people off the streets and into permanent supportive housing. She also discussed her experience as a former nonprofit leader and the role nonprofits play in solving pressing community issues.

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“My vision is to get Black folk[s] off the street. How can we accept that Black folks are 8% of the population of this City and also make up 30% of the people living in those tents?” exclaimed Mayor Bass.

Patterson interviews Mayor Bass during BEC’s second Fireside Chat at Blackbird House. (Lila Brown/L.A. Sentinel)

She also emphasized the urgent need for comprehensive strategies to address homelessness in Los Angeles and the importance of collaboration between government agencies, non-profit organizations, and community stakeholders.

“The nonprofit sector is critically important. With all of the work I am currently doing around the unhoused, it’s the nonprofit organizations that are taking care of the people,” explained the mayor.

“I have always been driven by issues. What led me to start Community Coalition is the phenomenon happening with crack cocaine. I started the Coalition to figure out how to shift the agenda,” Bass recalled.

“I felt like I was watching the same thing getting ready to happen again, but this time, it was the unhoused, so that’s why I left Congress. I couldn’t live with myself if I had to continue my job [in Congress] and watch the city fall back into what I saw in the 1990s.”

Many people attended as Bass shared her experience as a community organizer. (Lila Brown/L.A. Sentinel)

Reflecting on their leadership journeys, Bass and Patterson shared insights into their experiences as non-profit leaders and the importance of building an organizational culture that prioritizes improving people’s lives. Mayor Bass also provided perspective into empowering the next generation of non-profit leaders being key to carrying forward the mission of building resilient communities.

Bass concluded the conversation with a poignant reminder to those in leadership: “You should be trying to organize yourself out of a job. Don’t get invested in the problem. You want to get invested in the solution.”

The BEC is a network of funders and nonprofit leaders committed to investing in the long-term sustainability of Black-led organizations in Southern California (Los Angeles County and the Inland Empire). The organization aims to transform the relationship between philanthropy and Black-led organizations for more equitable funding.